The silence woke me more than anything, well more so the fact that it being so silent meant I could hear other things. The blood pounding in my ears, the sound of my shallow breathing, the rustle of the sheets. The bed was oddly cold. I grabbed for the edge of my warm comforter only to find my hand on something else. It was rougher to the touch, I couldn’t tell because of the sheets but it was thinner too. Fleece? I didn’t own anything in fleece. It was hard to get animal based textile in Land of Water because there wasn’t enough grazing land to do most livestock. It was one reason why our textile industry was so advanced in terms of processing plant textiles, we really didn’t have any choice if we wanted to survive the winters.
Cracking my eyes open I glanced down at the blanket I’d pulled up to my chin and looked at a thin light green fuzzy blanket. Blinking away the drowsiness I did a glance around the room and found it strange. I brought my right hand up to wipe away the crust to make sure I was seeing it right. The room was, white.
Not gray like concrete, tan and cream like rice screen doors, or even the hard wood brown of treated wood. It was white, reflecting the light off the panels in the ceiling showing it to be plastic or some equivalent as opposed to simply paint. That set the alarm off in my head immediately.
The Elemental Nations didn’t make plastic.
Stripping the blanket off my legs I turned to jump to the floor. A moment later a voice resounded through the room.
“Miss if you would be so kind as to stay in bed as we have yet to tend to all your injuries.”
I jumped at the voice landing awkwardly.
“(What the hell!)”
There was a pause as something seemed to shift. A few moments later the voice changed.
“(Little miss would you kindly stay be in bed for treatment.)”
The shift from Japanese to English was even more stilted than the accented English she had spoken the first time, but it was the same voice regardless.
“(Are you using a translator?)”
I said, glancing around.
“(Is it much obvious?)”
The words came in Japanese again.
“(Yes, it is.)”
I said as I glanced around the room looking for speakers and found none. The room was smooth, there were some machines to the side of the bed, a heart monitor also in white with the noise off, some cabinets built into the wall and an IV I noticed belatedly was in my arm.
“I understand English, though I’m rusty when speaking.”
“Understood, that will make this easier. How are you feeling?”
“Confused, startled, umm, (displaced)?”
“I am no expert in mental health, I was asking for the medical record.”
Well that wasn’t surprising considering she was talking to me over a microphone instead of in person. Given, I was talking back with little to no prompting. At least she was being polite about it. Still how did I feel? I couldn’t actually tell, which meant either I’d been put on a numbing jutsu or they had given me some fantastic drugs. Placing a hand on my head I reached for my clothing to scan my body and found it unresponsive. It was only then I looked down to find I had been dressed in a hospital gown and little else.
“Where are my clothes?”
“Your clothing was removed when you were brought in for treatment. Currently they are in storage.”
“May I have them?”
“You have still not answered the question.”
The voice responded again.
I put a hand on my head and did a quick scan then ran my hand over any body part I could reach. I was in worse shape than I thought.
“I have a concussion, a broken rib, a crack in my shoulder and there was some internal bleeding but it was already closed. May I go now?”
“Though it is interesting you came to that conclusion, you did not answer the question. How do you feel physically?”
“Tired, hungry, and sore just a bit.”
Whatever drug they had me on wasn’t something I recognized. I found it in my bloodstream but couldn’t separate out the base components enough. It was strong though, especially if it was affecting me.
“I am sorry, but for the records I’ll need to verify some personal information on you since you had no ID.”
She sounded sorry, but not enough apparently to direct me to my clothes. I let a huff of breath out of my nose but grabbed the blanket and pulled it around me. I couldn’t warm myself as well without my clothes.
“Fine, twenty questions,”
I let out a sigh.
“But only if you answer one to one.”
“If that is what you wish to do that is fine, though there is a limit to what I can answer. I will go first then, what is your name?”
“That’s another question, what’s your name?”
I said back.
“I am called Dragon. Why is it you don’t have a surname?”
“I’m an orphan, orphans don’t get surnames.”
“Why are you called Dragon?”
There was a pause before she responded.
“It was a name I chose for myself when I started my career. It seemed appropriate. Where are you from Ume?”
“Land of Water.”
“Where is that?”
“That’s another question.”
I said again.
“Right, then ask me one.”
“You said career, what career, what are you?”
Another pause, a few more seconds.
“The official term is sponsored hero, someone who works for a larger organization to fight and manage capes.”
“That is another question.”
She responded with a bit of amusement.
“Where is the Land of Water?”
“If you don’t know, I don’t know if I can tell. Where are we?”
There was a flicker on one of the far walls. It started small and closed into a smaller area. As she spoke the area expanded outwards showing a familiar and unreal map.
“We are located at the Protectorate HQ in Brockton Bay on the Northeastern Coast of the United States.”
My breath caught into my throat as I stared at the screen. Was I dreaming? What kind of dream would do this to me? Or was this real? Was I, no probably not home, unless something drastic happened in the last few years. But then what year was it? Did something really happen?
And where did that leave me?
Colin contemplated putting an espresso machine in his suit. While it would take some doing with all the other tech and gear he had he could probably manage a relay to deposit it directly into his mouth. Or maybe injected straight into his bloodstream. Anything to help with his later nights, but then he couldn’t really stop now.
Things that were supposed to be easier now that Lung was off the street had just gotten more and more complicated with the day. First Lung, then the bank robbery, now the disappearances. The hotline for the Protectorate was ringing off the hook, he absently checked the sorting algorithm he had in place to set the urgency of the calls. The police weren’t allowed to look for people until a certain time was called but that didn’t stop people from calling the Protectorate. It was a point of pride and contention that they responded more quickly to any large scale disasters especially if there was any hint of cape involvement. However that meant that there were a lot of false calls and wild goose chases that had to be sorted through. It was likely the police initially ignored the reports when the people who were supposedly taken appeared back at their normal residences or jobs the next day.
Until Battery’s report last night confirmed that something was indeed going on.
Now it was a more serious matter because according to reports it was only people of eastern or asian descent being kidnapped. Which meant it likely had to do with the Azn Bad Boys.
Regardless of whether they were new to the country or second, third or more generation Americans anyone with that type of ancestry was expected to pay tribute in some form to the Azn Bad Boys. The Protectorate tried to discourage it but as long as it wasn’t large-scale violence or involving Capes it was the police’s responsibility and something extreme had to happen to force their hand lest they have to get into jurisdictional disputes.
The entire situation was a massive pain in the ass.
The only reason they had rights over last night’s incident was because Battery had been on the scene and….
There was a ping on his monitor and a moment later a woman’s face appeared.
“Colin, how are you doing?”
With a smile he leaned back.
“The usual, trying to keep everything together.”
The feminine voice with a slight Newfoundland accent responded quickly.
“I wanted to inform you that the girl that was brought in is awake and aware.”
He turned and clicked the controls on one of the other monitors to bring up the medical bay. Sitting in it was the little girl who seemed intent on destroying the bowl of oatmeal set in front of her.
“Did you talk to her?”
“I did. We played twenty questions as she would call it, her name is Ume, she is thirteen years old and claims to be an orphan. Her parents died when she was an infant and she lived with several other older children. Though she does not believe they are in the city currently.”
“Does that name or her appearance match any missing children in this area or any adjacent states?”
He could run it himself, but Dragon could and would do it faster and with more coverage than he could manage.
“None, I’m running it through some of the larger databases for the East and West coast as well as checking Canada. Though I do not believe she is local enough to pop up.”
“What do you mean?”
“She speaks Japanese fluently, though she understands English and she refers to her home as the Land of Water. Considering the state Kyushu was in after the last attack it’s entirely possible she is directly from Japan.”
Colin had to stop to consider this. Japan had been reduced to a wasteland after Kyushu, people still lived there but it was considered less than a third world country in terms of habitability.
“If that’s true, how did she end up here?”
“She was not sure herself. She was certainly startled when I showed her a map of her current location.”
“Well, any speculation on her powers then, is she a cape?”
“From what I observed, yes. Despite being heavily drugged she was mostly cognizant which suggests heightened metabolism. She did something with her hands that caused a low scale radiation that allowed her to accurately examine and surmise her injuries. She has minor regenerative properties because she had several instances of internal bleeding that sealed and subsided on her own. She has heavy scarring on her back, light scarring on her torso, burns on her right wrist and upper torso as well as the more obvious wound she has of her missing her left arm from the elbow down. Quick scans of the wooden arm show no electrical parts, though there seems to be a metal core holding it in. We didn’t remove it for fear it may have some unknown trap mechanism we couldn’t detect.”
“So low scale regeneration, diagnostic ability and tinker ability.”
He leaned down on the desk to look at the screen.
“Assuming she is the creator. She also has impressive muscle mass for someone her age especially if she came from an impoverished nation like Japan, very little body fat as well as calluses on her right hand that suggests she either practices heavily with a one or two handed weapon or that she is some sort of gymnast.”
“Probably discount the gymnast. So she’s a cape, she’s scared, she’s healthy and she’s trained.”
Coming from a place like Japan meant that such a thing was damn near miraculous unless there was something else at work.
“Likely in more ways than one. Despite a spike in heart rate when discovering her surroundings, my introduction and the surprise at her location she calmed down remarkably quickly which suggests either trained or natural mental conditioning when dealing with stress.”
Leaning forward he rested on his hand and let out a breath.
“She’s a child soldier.”
“Perhaps, she has yet to make any hostile moves and has only made requests for basic amenities or for her clothing.”
“Yeah, no, we still don’t know what those are. I’m still running analysis on the figures and symbols written throughout the wraps. They seem to be simple hiragana but there’s some strange energy about them when put under scans. Nevermind that the fabric doesn’t match any known textile found.”
He leaned into his chair.
“What are the chances she’s muscle brought in by the Azn Bad Boys?”
“Hard to say without direct questioning. From what I’ve detected from her voice pitch and physical reactions she is genuinely surprised by her surroundings. She also asked several questions that would be considered common knowledge, given the ignorance may be from either a very isolated education or no education at all because of the circumstances of Japan’s situation.”
“Alright, I guess I’ll go then.”
It would give him a break at least from, well everything else. The amount of paperwork caused from the bank robbery was a headache on its own. Dauntless was requesting more blocks for training exercises, Kid Win’s use of unauthorized equipment, the registering of the new information on the Undersiders and of course the collateral damage caused by New Wave’s golden girl.
“Wish that kid would keep his girlfriend out of the field.”
Colin mumbled as he downed his costume and changed from simply Colin the tinker to Armsmaster, the leader of the Brockton Bay Protectorate.
It didn’t take long to walk to the hospital. It was a connected building as part of the general Protectorate HQ. She was in an isolated room on the third floor, until she figured out they wanted to keep her from interacting with normal staff lest she try anything.
When he entered the room she was done with her food and was currently playing with the buttons on the medical machines. They wouldn’t actually respond unless you had an access card to unlock the settings.
“No, standard is just fancier. So are you a comrade of Miss Dragon?”
Her voice had a clear accent to it, though not heavy enough to be hard to understand. As he got closer he was struck by how delicate she looked. Dragon was right when she said there was very little body fat, her cheeks which would usually still have at least some trace of fat from childhood were thin, giving her noticeable cheekbones despite having a fairly round jaw. Her eyes were dark gray set in almond shaped, heavy lidded and set at a bit of an angle. The set with her thin lips and small nose made her look almost cute, a bit like a doll though one not accustomed to smiling as only a small line showed her expression.
Her hair was a dark maroon he could find no similar shades too, given such a strange color may have been a physical cue that came with her triggering.
“My name is Armsmaster, and yes I often work with Dragon.”
“You seem to trust her a great deal.”
She said it less as a question and more as a comment.
“In this industry such is a given.”
“Not really, you can work with someone and not trust them. She probably trusts you a lot since she was the first person to talk to me, and the only person I told my name to. You didn’t even ask before you used mine.”
She turned from her sitting position to a lying position on the bed.
“Though I guess you didn’t trust her enough to assess the information she gathered from me during her interrogation so you came to do so yourself.”
“What makes you think this is an interrogation?”
“Because I tried the door and it was locked.”
She looked at his visor.
“Why would you keep me here unless you wanted to get more information, unless you wish to dissect me, which in that case I may need to make a more forceful exit.”
He sat down in one of the pull out chairs and tapped on it. She was observant if anything. Also cheeky and at the moment not cooperating. He took a moment to breathe before he began.
“You’re locked in because you’re hurt. Not only hurt, but heavily drugged. We can’t release anyone, especially a minor in such a condition.”
“But this isn’t a hospital. In fact it’s the Protectorate HQ. Miss Dragon said I was here for observation because I was what was called a cape, because I started healing more quickly than a normal person. But she also said I won’t be held here or forced to tell anyone what I can and cannot do.”
“Yes and no, this is a hospital, just one used by the protectorate. Look Ume, this doesn’t have anything to do with what you can do as it does where you were found. Did Dragon tell you about that?”
“I was found in an area called the Docks, in the rubble of a collapsed building.”
“You were found by a building that was being used by a local gang called the Azn Bad Boys, have you heard of them?”
No change in heart rate, facial tics or other tells his scanning program to say she was lying, it didn’t have the normal red words that showed when it happened. It wasn’t a perfect program but so far the results didn’t seem to be faulty. It was possible she was lying and was just a practiced liar that she didn’t have any of those things, but so far nothing she said or did suggested she was.
He grabbed his phone and set it on the bed. With a few clicks he brought up three pictures. The girl looked at them but the programs in his helmet showed no sign of recognition.
“Alright, are you familiar with any persons named Lung, Bakuda or Oni Lee?”
“No, and Oni Lee? Are these all asian, oh duh, Azn Bad Boys. Bit on the nose, you’d think they’d go for something more bilingual or threatening sounding.”
Not lying, not as far as he could tell at least with his system.
“So you don’t know anything about these individuals?”
“No, maybe you should fill me in.”
“This isn’t how this works.”
He said with a frown.
“Really, that’s how I did it with Miss Dragon. Miss Dragon are you there?”
There was silence for a good while.
“Come on, I know you’re listening, are you gonna be all silent cause you’re supposed to let your teammate lead the interrogation? Honestly you were way better at it.”
Was she trying to irritate him? It was working, but not enough to make him crack. Besides, any way that got information would work.
“Do you really want to know about them?”
“If I’m going to be mistaken for being a member of their gang I suppose I should be more informed as to who they are.”
“Unless the only reason your doing this is because I’m Asian, which in that case is super racist.”
“You know you were found at the scene, your ancestry has nothing to do with it.”
“Look these three are capes, Bakuda’s a tinker who specializes bombs, Lung is a brute/blaster who controls fires and grows stronger the longer a fight goes on, Oni Lee is an assassin and a mover, he can teleport.”
This was all public record. Anyone who skimmed the parahumans wiki could find this information so it was no loss.
“That is a dangerous combination.”
She looked at the pictures for a long time and let out a sigh.
“Several counts of murder, for all of them minimum. If you really aren’t involved with them you should avoid them at all costs.”
He emphasized this.
“Well it’s not usually my intention to get into trouble.”
There it was, the red lettering saying lie.
He said in a deadpan.
“So you are using a program in that helmet. I knew there was a reason you came in to get up.”
She said with an aha in her voice.
“This isn’t a get up, this is my combat suit.”
“Why do you need a, oh! You’re a tinker too, you don’t have physical power so you use tech.”
She did a slight clapping motion with her hands.
“Good for you, the best way to field test stuff is to always use it yourself.”
“I suppose that means you make your gear?”
He glanced down at her arm.
“I did some of the design work, but I didn’t make the stuff that makes it run. That’s my sister’s handiwork.”
She held up the wooden arm and flexed the simple three pronged clasp.
“We’re still in prototyping though.”
“Looks a bit primitive but then prosthesis isn’t as well developed a field as it should be. Though I know some people who might have something better.”
“I’m not sure how well it would work, tech where I’m from is kind of limited.”
“Where is that exactly, Dragon said you are from a place called the Land of Water?”
“Yes that’s right.”
“Is that some place in Japan or China?”
“Well I’m not su…”
A beeping went off in his helmet and he held up a hand as the feed went up. Several bombs had gone off in the docks. Shit, Bakuda? He looked towards the girl.
“Well this has been informative but I have to go.”
“How long will I be here for?”
“We’ll have to discuss that later, there will be some difficulty with your release but as long as your cooper…”
There was another beep and a line as Piggot got to his ear. She started filling the conversation and he had to suppress his cursing.
“Look, we’ll talk later, I have to go.”
Heading out the door, she only stopped by his lab to grab his halberd. He had to head to the scene partially to scan for stray tech, partially just to show he was doing something. The last few encounters as well as the incident with Lung had left a stain on his reputation and he needed to compensate fast lest they try to use it as an excuse to replace him.
Hopefully this will all be handled and he can get back to this quickly.